We took our first cruise ever with HAL in the Western Med back in 2011 and just loved it. So, eager to experience another cruise holiday, we chose an itinerary from Sydney to Auckland that would not require too much travelling time to begin our vacation.
As locals we know that Jan - March is when the weather in NZ is at its most reliable for warmer temperatures and least wind. We certainly were not disappointed as the seas were calm and the sun shone at every port of call for us, except Fiordland, where it obviously rains a lot & often.
The itinerary, which included quite a bit of scenic cruising, was everything we hoped for and so much more, with little surprises at every turn. Each city/town had it's own unique way of making visitors feel welcome, for instance in Dunedin we were farewelled by a group of bag pipers and in Napier (where we caught the last day of the Art Deco Festival) a rag-time band played on the pier as we prepared to depart. Even for us locals, there were many 'first ever' experiences, such as Milford Sound, Akaroa Harbour and White Island, just to name a few. NZ came across as a clean, beautiful & fun place to visit.
Unfortunately the travel commentary on board was largely read from a script and not entirely accurate on many of the specifics of our ports of call. We could not see the point of being read screeds of historical & geographical facts about a place were were just sailing out of. If people are interested in that level of detail they will research it for themselves; or have already done so. We would have preferred something about what we could see as we sailed away or just silence to enjoy the view!
The lovely ms Osterdam met and often exceeded our expectations for stateroom comfort, food and entertainment, even compared to the high benchmark set by the Nieuw Amsterdam back in 2011. Fabulous variety of well prepared and nutritious food at every mealtime made it very hard to portion control! Everything on board is clean and shiny and the health & safety of all on board is obviously taken very seriously.
The Captain was charming and informative and we assume that the generally happy atmosphere amongst the senior officers, entertainment team and crew is attributable to his leadership and people management skills. In particular the Cruise Director, Michael did a wonderful job of communicating everything we needed to know each day. Our cabin and dining room stewards were excellent.
In summary, a very highly recommended ship and itinerary. We will definitely be travelling with HAL again in the near future.
Theresa & Mark